Keiron Durant, an honors chemical engineering senior, has won two national awards for his research on alternative fuels.
Durant, from Trinidad and Tobago, recently accepted the Lubrizol Company Undergraduate Award in recognition of his academic achievements and contributions to scientific research. Durant was one of three undergraduates selected from a national pool of candidates to be honored by the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He had the opportunity to share his biofuel research at the organization’s annual conference, held Oct. 1-4 in Indianapolis, Ind.
On Friday, Nov. 1, Durant will travel to the annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in San Francisco. He will share his research and receive the 2013 Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer National Scholarship Award, which includes a $1,000 cash award. Durant was one of 15 student members of the institute to receive this honor, which is awarded on the basis of academic achievement and involvement in student chapter activities.
Durant has been working since his sophomore year with Jamie Hestekin, an associate professor of chemical engineering, as part of a team to convert algae into butanol, a type of biofuel. Durant’s research, which is supported by an Honors College research grant, focuses on modeling the addition of hydrogen to fermented algae to produce butanol.
“Dr. Hestekin is one of the main reasons I love research so much,” Durant said. “He showed me how to attack things, and he gives you the energy – he urges you to be passionate about research,” he added with a grin.
In addition to researching biofuel development, Durant has focused on extracting fossil fuels more sustainably. He has explored this topic in summer research experiences for undergraduates at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also participated in an international team of students that worked together via Skype, Facebook and email to explore the use of intelligent field and intelligent well technologies to increase oil field production. They presented their findings at the International Petroleum Conference in China earlier this year. Currently, he’s researching and applying to graduate programs in petroleum engineering.
“Right now, it’s not possible for the world to rely on alternative fuels only,” he said. “For some time longer, we’re going to have to rely on fossil fuels. I’d like to find ways to minimize carbon dioxide emissions and maximize oil recovery – basically, make the most of what we have available to us right now, while preserving the environment.”